Leaked earlier by the NYTimes (the page has been removed, but is back for good), the “Groupon-like” service Facebook Deals is set to launch at midnight. Like its competitors Groupon and LivingSocial, this is a group-buying service that will offer deep discounts to buyers, under the condition that the transaction reaches a critical mass of users. Just like Groupon, Facebook will send deals via email. However, it also plans to make those appear in your news feeds. This is probably the boldest commercial use of the Facebook user feed to date.
And this could give Facebook an edge because feeds aren’t subject to spam-filters and ISP crackdown, and Facebook can make sure that they are well integrated and could even use some filters to make sure that they don’t overrun your feed if there is only little activity. None of the email-based services can do that. Before you get excited: Facebook Deals will debut in only a handful of cities to start with: Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, San Diego and San Francisco (yes!).
Facebook is taking it (relatively slow) because it will build its own sales force to sign businesses who want to tap in this new marketplace. Finally, Deals will use the Facebook Credits, the company’s virtual currency used for games and digital goods. In this context, you can only buy “deals” with the FB credits – and of course, you can use your credit card if you don’t have credits.